Hardik Pandya turned 24 on Wednesday. (Source: PTI)
Hardik Pandya has earned fame recently for his match-finishing abilities and is touted as the seam bowling all-rounder that India had been looking for since Kapil Dev. The Baroda player had been on the radar of taking his showing from domestic cricket and IPL to the international stage and this year, he has in what has been a stupendous year. On Wednesday as he turns 24, the Indian team would count themselves lucky to have a big hitter like Pandya amongst them.
In the two years since he started playing for India, Pandya has made himself a fixture in the Indian team setup. After debuting in the limited over competitions, he made his debut in Test cricket on the tour of Sri Lanka and started off with a fifty. To take that up a notch, he added a century in the third Test.
Pandya had a debut to forget when he could muster just two runs against Sri Lanka in February, 2016. With the ball, he failed to make an impact while conceding 18 runs in three overs.
But 2017 has seen Pandya turn a leaf. Where in 2016 Pandya scored 123 runs and picked up 19 wickets in 20 matches, this year he has scored 710 runs and picked up 30 wickets in 31 matches. Just this year alone, his average stands at 39.44 with one century and five half centuries while bagging three man of the match awards.
One could argue that his surge with the Indian team began at the ICC Champions Trophy where he announced himself to the stage with three consecutive sixes to Imad Wasim in India’s opener. As the season continued, Pandya has become invaluable with his ability to swing the ball, both new and old, and to kill off matches. In effect, he has taken over from MS Dhoni in that department which has brought about questions over who is a better finisher. Even in the match against Pakistan in the ICC Champions Trophy, he was sent in ahead of Dhoni which signified that the baton had been passed.
Most recently, the flashy all-rounder, who remains a cool and calm customer under pressure, had been promoted to number four against Australia in the ODI series and didn’t flinch even as the asking rate climbed in situations. In the four matches, he scored 222 runs while also chipping in with six wickets.